The CW’s Arrowverse is an unprecedented experiment in DC’s TV media and, to be completely honest, the only media project that could possibly rival the interconnected tissue that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And the key ingredient in the formula CW has devised is focusing on character interactions over the sound and fury that is currently infecting the DCEU. But if it has another lethal weapon in its arsenal, it’s a staggering number of great performances by consistent actors. Terrific performers like Stephen Amell, Melissa Benoist, and Grant Gustin carried their respective series on their shoulders long enough for their shows to develop diverse and stellar casts. And when those casts starting having bleed-off characters, Legends of Tomorrow was born, a place for the secondary characters and their actors to explore their range.
But because every good performance begets a bad one, it behooves viewers to review the ten best and ten worst casting choices in the show’s run. While it remains as one of the most liked shows amongst the CW's roster of Arrowverse shows, it still has its problems when it comes to nailing the casting spot on and that's why this very list exists. As a point of order, only actors that were cast specifically for the show will be considered, which unfortunately means no Brandon Routh, Victor Garber, Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, and Matt Ryan don’t count as they debuted in other shows first. There is one exception to this, but for very, very good reasons.
20 RECAST: NICK ZANO AS NATE HEYWOOD
Nick Zano is utterly perfect for exactly one aspect of Nate Heywood’s character: he’s exactly as square jawed, charismatic, and all-American as he needs to be. But Nate is a more complex character than just ‘looks good and quips' and the show does very little to show more than just the one dimension.
His tragic romance with Amaya should leave him heartbroken and his desire to live up to his grandfather’s legacy should leave him determined, but Nick can’t do anything but smile and drop one-liners. The character in the comic is has far more depth than what the CW shows, much to the detriment of the character we see on-screen.
19 PERFECT: TALA ASHE AS ZARI TOMAZ
Zari Tomaz’s introduction to Legends of Tomorrow was weird. Mostly because she was introduced in an episode that claimed we’re only 30 years out from a global ban on religion. Since then though, she’s proved to be a fun, likeable, and layered character -- something that all of the Arrowverse shows could use more of.
And it’s only possible thanks to Tala Ashe’s commitment to the role, naturally expressive face, and seemingly genuine enjoyment in her work. She intentionally seeped into the role, starting out stiff and becoming relaxed as her character acclimated to the Legends. Now that’s what we call nuance.
18 RECAST: MAISIE RICHARDSON-SELLERS AS AMAYA JIWE
Amaya’s presence on the Waverider has always felt like something of an afterthought. Not in that she was a minor character, not at all. But her storyline was set in stone, she was in a doomed romance with Nate and would inevitably have to go back to her own time to cement her heroic legacy, leaving very little room for dramatic tension.
Actress Maisie Richardson-Sellers seemed to know this and made sure to play any scene where she wasn’t spending all of her screen time with Nick Zano as dry as possible. It's an unfortunate result for such an interesting comic character.
17 PERFECT: ARTHUR DARVILL AS RIP HUNTER
It’s no big mystery as to how Arthur Darvill was cast as the time-traveling renegade Rip Hunter in Legends of Tomorrow. He cut his teeth on this particular brand of sci-fi on Doctor Who, one of the best and longest running time-travel shows of all time.
And though he tones it down considerably for Legends of Tomorrow, he still has the perfect, British timbre to pull off authoritative-yet-rebellious, a strangely tricky character position. Though he was killed off at the end of the third season, the nature of all comic-book related media suggests that he may grace us further by his disarming charm.
16 RECAST: SARAH GREY AS STARGIRL
In the comics, Stargirl is a deceptively complex character, an ultimate amalgam of creativity to make the nearly-perfect teenage hero. The Arrowverse had a great opportunity by putting her in her original WWII setting, but blew it by casting Sarah Grey, who seemed to think that all the role required was a smile and blonde curls.
Granted, she had a laughably plastic prop staff so she probably wasn’t inclined to take it seriously, but her flouncy monotone could have derailed entire episodes. Stargirl could have been a breakout character on the show (and a breakout role for the actress), but it unfortunately fell very flat.
15 PERFECT: EVAN JONES AS DICK RORY
Dominic Purcell’s Mick ‘Heat Wave’ Rory is one of the best parts of Legends. After loosing his partner at the end of season one, he’s become the lovably grumpy and hard-drinking uncle of the group, matched by a more relaxed performance. To compete with him in terms of sheer masculinity takes some serious skill that few can attest they have.
Fortunately, Evan Jones came to play when he took the role of Mick’s Vietnam vet father Dick. His growl is a little higher than Mick’s highlighting their differences but matches his energy and tone wonderfully, making him the perfect casting choice to play Heat Wave's dad.
14 RECAST: JONATHAN CAKE AS BLACKBEARD
In theory, the plotline for Blackbeard on Legends was brilliant. According to the Arrowverse, the notoriously cutthroat and sociopathic pirate was actually all talk and a huge coward. All it really needed was a talented actor with decent comic timing who could flit back and forth between intimidating and pathetic at the turn of a dime.
Instead they got Jonathan Cake who could do none of the above and whose naturally soft voice more or less sealed the character’s doom. This was not the Blackbeard we remember, or that we were hoping to see on Legends of Tomorrow. Chalk this one up to a huge missed opportunity.
13 PERFECT: BAR PALY AS HELEN OF TROY
Helen of Troy’s whole character arc in Legends of Tomorrow was that she had always been told to stand still and look pretty but was actually a talented, tormented, and instinctually sound person. It’s a fairly difficult position to be in and requires a deft actress.
Bar Paly was perfectly suited for both aspects of the role and her light voice made it easy to underestimate her. She became a shining beacon of light on the show, and when she came back for the season finale as an Amazon warrior, it was just icing on the cake for fans of the CW's time-hopping show.
12 RECAST: KATIA WINTERS AS FREYDIS EIRIKSDOTTIR
Legends of Tomorrow’s interpretation of Leif Erikson’s sister was an intriguing suggestion. She was a religious fanatic always looking to worship the most powerful being in her presence but simultaneously twist their words in order for it to fit her agenda.
But for a zealot, she was surprisingly bland, mostly because Katia Winters gave such a ‘meh’ performance that it nerfed the entire point of the character. She lacked the charm that fans were hoping this character would have and it was very hard to believe she could muster a cult around her when she had no charisma whatsoever to speak of.
11 PERFECT: BILLY ZANE AS P.T. BARNUM
Eat your heart out, Hugh Jackman. You might have played Barnum in a feature film, but Billy Zane dropped a better performance of the real-life conman in a single episode of Legends of Tomorrow. Zane played the character as equally conniving and sympathetic, desperate to save his pride and joy but willing to enslave and torture others to do so.
And nobody does conflicted but despicable quite like Billy Zane. The real tragedy was that he only managed to show up for one episode when Blackbeard gets a whole freaking arc. This was a missed opportunity to do more with a great actor, but hopefully it's something that will be revisited.
10 RECAST: LOVELL ADAMS-GRAY AS BARRY OBAMA
The Arrowverse has never been afraid to get political. Whether it’s Arrow sitting the fence on gun control, Flash delving into the nitty gritty of the criminal justice system, or Supergirl just… being Supergirl, the shows have always had a fairly liberal edge to them.
Legends decided to try and measure up by including a young Barack Obama. A descent attempt, but tarnished by Lovell Adams-Gray’s happy-go-lucky performance which saw him adopt almost none of the future leader's tone or mannerisms, leaving him as just a fairly insightful but altogether regular college kid, which is a shame because we all have an Obama accent in us.
9 PERFECT: COURTNEY FORD AS NORA DARHK
The reveal that Damien Darhk’s mysterious female accomplice was actually the little girl we’d last seen in Arrow was genuinely shocking and led to one of the show’s best performances. As Nora Darhk, Courtney Ford was delightfully evil and deceptively manipulative, a perfect foil to her enjoyably over the top father played by Neal McDonough at his most hammy.
Her sheer energy actively lifted the rest of the season to a higher standard than that of its predecessors. She may have disappeared into a Time Bureau prison for the time being, but hopefully she’ll grace our screens once more in the future.
8 RECAST: JOHNATHON SCHAECH AS JONAH HEX
Jonah Hex is one of the last relevant characters in the DC roster left from his particular era of comics. An enduring remnant of the pulp age, his gruff demeanor and scarred face are only ever used in time travel stories, so his appearance in Legends of Tomorrow was pretty much guaranteed.
But Johnathon Schaech was almost unrecognizable in the role, not in terms of him disappearing into the part, but as in he acted so different from the western pariah that Hex was supposed to be that he was impossible to pin down. Saying his outing was better or worse than that of Josh Brolin is real flip of the coin.
7 PERFECT: JOHN NOBLE AS MALLUS
Mallus might have been a bit weak as far as villains go, but he was played by John freaking Noble and is therefore automatically one of the best antagonists in the Arrowverse. With very little audio tampering, Mallus sounded genuinely threatening and his voice always drew a few shivers from its sheer timbre.
Noble is no stranger to evil roles and clearly took enjoyment in giving life to such diabolical lines. Plus, it led to one of the most meta moments in the entire series when the Legends visit the set of Lord of the Rings to secretly record him.
6 RECAST: CHRISTINA BRUCATO AS LILY STEIN
To be fair, Christina Brucato isn’t so much bad in her role as Lily Stein as she is empty. This isn’t even really her fault, the fact is that her character is so bland and generic that an A-list actress could have been cast in the role and struggled to find a way to properly emote.
Though she seems to have the ‘smile and be supportive’ thing down, Brucato couldn’t manage to express the confusion and turmoil that her minor role required. The writers of Legends consistently do a good job of fleshing characters out, so the lack of characterization here is particularly heartbreaking.
5 PERFECT: AMY LOUISE PEMBERTON AS GIDEON
Though she was the voice of Gideon in Flash first, it was on Legends of Tomorrow that Amy Louise Pemberton debuted as a live-action version of the helpful AI, albeit for only a single episode. But it counts and it gives us an excuse to give Pemberton credit for a wonderful performance that most viewers would easily dismiss.
Her measured but bouncy voice is perfect for Gideon and emanates a natural comfort and charisma that truly brings the Waverider to life. Even when she comes out for her live action scenes, she gives a fittingly genuine performance that rivals that of any of the main characters on the show.
4 RECAST: JES MACALLAN AS AVA SHARPE
In all honesty, Jes Macallan would have been in the ‘Best’ category for this list if it weren’t for the weak twist in her character halfway through season three of Legends of Tomorrow. Spoiler alert: the uptight sapphic Time Bureau agent is actually an expendable clone from 2213, genetically designed to be the perfect woman.
But… really? She’s a good actress and her chemistry with Caity Lotz is sincere but she didn’t become three dimensional until halfway through the season. It's a lot of wasted potential for an actor that does an admirable job of creating a compelling character when there shouldn't have been one.
3 PERFECT: LUKE BILYK AS ELVIS
Legends has a lot of one-off cameos from celebrities from the past, a staple of good time-travel narratives. One of the best was Luke Bilyk’s one-episode performance as the king of rock and roll. Not only did he masterfully replicate Elvis’s distinctive wavery singing style, but he perfectly captured Presley’s home-grown southern mannerisms and humble demeanor.
He didn’t just adopt a southern twang, he replicated Elvis’s speech patterns based on interviews from his youth, giving a new definition to ‘no small parts.’ It's just too bad that we likely won't see this character make a return, but our fingers are crossed.
2 RECAST: TRACY IFEACHOR AS KUASA
Kuasa was always sort of a weird character with very oblique motivations. There were no real reasons for her to do any of the things she did and her overall goal, rewriting a very specific event on the timeline, would have been much easier if she hadn’t gotten caught up with the Darhks or Mallus.
But part of what always rubbed her the wrong way was Tracy Ifeachor’s over-intense performance. Every line coming from her mouth was delivered with the conviction required from a dictator, not an actor on a mid-budget superhero drama. This definitely took us by surprise and not in a welcomed way.
1 PERFECT: CAITY LOTZ AS SARA LANCE
A bit of a cheat, Caity Lotz was cast as Sara Lance, aka White Canary, all the way back in the first season of Arrow. It’s amazing to think that she was initially cast in a one-off role that would see her dead by the time the credits rolled on the Pilot and has evolved over the course of the entire Arrowverse project to be a main character on her own show.
She has shown incredible range, has fully embraced every aspect of her character, and has seamlessly integrated herself into the core fabric of Legends. We're glad that the CW decided to bring her back and Legends wouldn't be the same without her strong performance at the forefront.